School censorship and my  book Families  

March 18, 1994

School Censors Violate the Rights of Children; Yes, in Virginia, Too


To the Editor:

Re "The Censorship Sweepstakes" (editorial, March 10): Please do not leave Virginia out of your hall of infamy. Fairfax County, the richest per capita in the country, also appears to be among the least enlightened, judging by their treatment of my 1981 children's book, "Families."

I wrote "Families" as a single mother with a 6-year-old daughter because I believe that children are helped by seeing their own reality reflected in literature. My daughter, Corey, and I knew children living in many different family constellations, but could find none of this rich variety reflected in books. Children's literature seemed stuck in Dick-and-Jane time warp, where every child had two parents, two siblings, a dog, a cat and a house in the suburbs.

"Families" includes not only human but animal families, ranging from lions to ants. It also mirrors the ethnic variety of an Upper West Side public school. It is narrated by a 6-year-old, who lives with her mother in one city, like my daughter, and goes to see her father in another during vacations.

The book is being removed from the family life curriculum of Fairfax County, where it has been used without incident for six years, because two parents (leading opponents of the entire curriculum) say it encourages lesbianism by showing two women living together and, even worse, "glorifies divorce."

They refer to a scene that shows the narrator going to see her father during vacation, and shows one of her friends saying what one of Corey's friends did say to her mother at the time, "Why don't you get divorced so I can go to Chicago on the airplane too?" Only people who go through life inspecting the world for smut could take this as anything but a joke.

Are the parents of Fairfax County so deluded that they think the divorce rate is caused by children's literature? Are they willing to let a couple of hysterics determine their children's reading material? And is it too much to expect a school administration to stand up to this kind of nonsense, rather than to cave in without a struggle?

People in Fairfax County who may want to defend the Bill of Rights, not to mention realism in children's literature, can get in touch with me, the American Civil Liberties Union or the National Coalition Against Censorship.

MEREDITH TAX New York, March 13, 1994